#Shiplife Series: Things to consider before working on a ship.

Let’s face it. Most people are intrigued by the idea of working at sea. For us seafarers, it’s routine to be asked about life onboard, be it from passengers or friends and family.

Speaking from my own perspective, which might differ from the rest – these are some of the points to consider before applying for a cruise ship job: 

1. Being away from home for at least 6 months.

Most contracts range from 6 – 9 months and this means long days without seeing your loved ones and being in familiar territory, eg. Your bed.

2. Sharing a small space with someone.

Most positions on the ship requires you to share a cabin with a roommate. If you enjoy being by yourself, this might be a little challenging.

3. You have other duties apart from your regular job.

This means that not only am I working on retail but I’m also a stairway guide during crew and passenger drills, I have embarkation duties and yes I also work the x-ray machine sometimes.

4. Nobody cleans after you.

Unless you pay the cabin steward to do it for you. But yeah, you do your own laundry, clean your cabin…you get the idea. The company offers complimentary laundry for uniforms but sometimes it’s easier to dump everything into 1 load. 

5. You don’t get days off

Like how can I even forget this super important point? Most people react with horror or sympathy whenever they hear this. Crewmembers do not get days off. We do get shore leave and hours off though. 

Most retail and casino staff tend to have the “easiest life” apparently as it is dictated by law that we’re not allowed to operate when we dock. For this itinerary that I’m in currently, we have an overnight in Russia so yes, there’s a day off for me!

These are the 5 basic points and yes there’s plenty more considering how different people are but still. Signing off now because I want maybe a 30 minute nap. 

Naps are a luxury.

#Shiplife Series: The Halfway Mark.

This is it.

The halfway mark of my first contract onboard a cruise ship. I left home on 27 February 2017 and today is 20 July 2017.

Its been 5 months.

Initially I was supposed to disembark on 26 August 2017 but was requested to extend until 23 September 2017. So 2 more months to go ’til home!

There’s just so much to share but also so much most people would not understand about life onboard until you’ve been there. The ship is our workplace, our home, our playground, our city, our country. We eat, live and breathe the ship and its people, so much that strong friendships are formed even without intention. One day feels like one week on the ship which is why you feel like you know each other forever even when it is just a few months of being together.

Which is why people fall in love onboard or hate someone with such passion. Who wouldn’t when they’re faced with them 24/7? 

I really can’t explain too much right now. I will need some quiet time to collect my thoughts and some time to reflect on them before I can do a better job at blogging. The whole experience has been enriching and I love being on the ships and sailing across oceans. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Right now the body has started to tire and energy to falter. But the heart feels eternally grateful for that one opportunity which changed everything.

The countdown begins for home now.

Hello June, where is summer?!

Currently docked at Copenhagen with another turnaround. Yep, that’s pretty much what the whole itinerary is going to be like for Baltic season.

Copenhagen – Oslo – Sea day – Warnemunde – Sea day – Talinn – St. Petersburg – St. Petersburg – Helsinki – Stockholm – Sea day – Copenhagen

Eat.Rest.Repeat. I’m currently having a good time enjoying the beauty of Scandinavia but it is still too cold. 11 degrees in June?! I want to wear dresses and not be in pants all the time 😧

Anyway I’m beginning to feel a little jaded. Can’t wait to have proper Malaysian food or at least some spicy Asian food (*hint Tomyam!) when I get back. I know it’s ungrateful for me to feel this way but hey, we’re only human. I don’t particularly miss going back to the humidity and the heat but there are some things which I miss like lazy weekends and catching up with family and friends. There’s just so much you can do onboard. 

Still, I’m having lots of fun. Can’t wait to be home but also still have lots to explore.

Til then, signing off!

#Shiplife Series: 1.5 months onboard & Drydock

We’re docked now in Hamburg & I’m currently on standby as a keyrunner for the contractors. Overall the boutiques have a rather relaxing schedule during this period of 10 days but hey, weather is pretty harsh with a temperature of 6 degrees Celsius.

Life onboard has been pretty amazing. Crazy, fast and furious. Work hard, play hard. That’s what it is. There rules on the ship – the official & non official ones, some which are hard to elaborate and understand unless you’ve been there.

The amazing part is, I’ve travelled to around 10 different countries in just a month. I’ve done some stuff I’ll never do. Snorkeling with sea turtles in U.S. Virgin Islands. Kayaking across the Carribean sea. Dancing under the stars. Challenging my comfort zone. Challenging my potential. And honestly the world never failed to amaze me. So different yet so alike.

I’m still expanding my horizons. And I’m so blessed especially to be able to travel to Europe. Crazy, crazy, crazy. I still have 4 months after drydock, I’m pretty sure that will be amazing as well.

#Shiplife Series – Prologue: Documentations.

In my previous post I mentioned that I had yet to undergo my medical check. Finally it was done and I have all the required documents ready! To sum things up what I needed to submit was:

  1. An ENG1 medical certificate (for seafarers)
  2. A US C1/D crew visa
  3. A certificate of good conduct issued by the Malaysian government

After about a month I finally managed to complete everything, would have been sooner if I could manage to get myself an earlier interview slot at the U.S. embassy but nope.

Pretty psyched now and can’t wait to receive a ship assignment! Will definitely split the whole application process into different blog and vlog entries so watch this space! Your girl is going to the sea!

Thoughts on being single

Are we all afraid to be alone?

Lately there has been many friends on Facebook who have gotten married, which I am happy for. It is definitely not an easy journey, from finding someone you like to be with 24/7 and deciding to accept them for who they are. The lifelong commitment stuff. Right now my body and mind seems to shudder at the very thought of marriage. I’ve been through a number of boyfriends and maybe it’s just me but forever just seems a little too long.

“You don’t know love”, they might say. “You just haven’t found the right person”, others might add. Both might be true but I’ll just say that I’m pretty much happy where I am right now. Single, alone and…free.

There have also been friends who have fallen out of relationships. Friends breaking up with their partners. Married couples getting divorced. This scares me as well. The fragility of a relationship and how thin the line that separates being together and being not, is.

I just really want to make a point that if you’re in a loving relationship, great. If you’re not, it’s not the end world either. Don’t worry about not being able to find someone, you will. There is just no expiration date to meeting people and falling in love so why get so worked up about being alone when you have so much you can do? Read the books you always wanted. Watch all the movies you want. Start on the hobbies you’ve always said you wish you tried.

There is really no harm in being alone. Instead of constantly looking for someone to love you, go love yourself first. Enjoy your moments of solitude. Live. Don’t just exist.

Waiting & Wanting

For those of you who follow me on social media (Instagram: reenkhaw), you might have heard that I was in the process of getting my letter of good conduct from the consular. Just checked the status today and it’s ready for collection! How eerily efficient is that? So yes, one document down.

I haven’t shared it publicly the reason why I needed it for because I didn’t want to count my chickens before they are hatched if you know what I mean. I’ve told my family and close friends about it which like 90% reacted in surprised horror.

The current pending issue I need to complete is to get my U.S. visa and medical done. I’ve paid for the visa earlier today and to my utmost terror the next available interview appointment slot is on 29 November 2016.

Another full month of waiting.

God & Religion

Do you believe in God?

I have a pretty laid-back opinion when it comes to religion. People often ask what religion I belong to and at most times, I’ll say that I pray to what my parents pray to.
Of which is the truth.
My parents are Taoist-Buddhist and sometimes offer prayers to the Hindu Gods as well. Growing up, religion for me is a “to-do” because the adults asked us to. As I grow older and especially after moving away from home, religion doesn’t seem to matter to me as long as I always do good.

I wouldn’t say that I don’t believe in God, I do. There is definitely a higher power bigger than all of us and at times I find myself believing the phrase, “The rest is up to God.” Well God could also mean the Universe and the energies that come with it but yeah, you get the idea.

So yes, I do believe in God but I don’t believe in certain ideologies of religion. Right now I always mark the Buddhist column when it comes to filling forms – out of convenience’s sake. Should I start marking some other boxes now?

28

So I just celebrated my 28th birthday.

I’ve lived for 28 years.

But what is living actually? What kind of life?

My family isn’t rich and I was brought up in typical Malaysian fashion, education first and other things second. I studied in a mainstream school and later on went to private university, mainly because my grades weren’t “good enough” for the public tertiary system. I can say for sure that when I was growing up, I wasn’t a very driven individual. I have no goals and no dreams of becoming someone. Nothing inspires me and at most, I was a “kinda” person. Most of the time, I got pretty okay grades because fortunately enough, I am pretty smart (or so I think). I sailed through my whole schooling life pretty much that way. I started taking school a little more seriously in Form 6. I started being really into school when I entered uni.

I think that being in a working class family, my parents’ didn’t have time or energy to focus on our education and inspire us to dream big. My siblings and I were more or less raised by our grandmothers and left to our own devices after school. So that could be a reason for my disinterest and lack of drive.

It just sort of feels weird to me right now that at that point of time, the future never really seem to bother me. I did remember that I wanted to enroll in Limkokwing University (prestigious design uni in Malaysia) when I finished my Form 5 but my mum said “No money, just go to Form 6”. I didn’t even try to find out what other options I have.

So all that aside, I wanted to study in the city. I did receive some protests from family but a real big part of me really wanted to go out and “see the world”. You know, the whole grow up thing and you’ll never get a chance to do it once you don’t do it sort of idea. My dad supported me financially while I took an education loan from the government and finished my degree. Fast forward to now, I’ve been bouncing back and forth getting job experiences and pretty much liking what I do.

Now is that living?

I’ve done the typical Asian “life path” plan thingie. Study, graduate from university, get a good job. Next in line would be to get into a relationship, buy a house and get married. I wouldn’t be able to afford a house in my current situation. “But you can always find someone and share the house between the two of you”. I’ve been in a few relationships and let’s just say, I’m pretty contented with being single right now. Relationships seem to get more complicated as you grow and at times, being without one means having less drama to deal with. I’ll just have a glass of wine and go to sleep with my “imaginary boyfriend” pillow, haha. So nope. Not sure if parents will be disappointed but I think they understand.

Living – in my context is living your life in the path of your goals and dreams. You may not have achieved your dreams but you are driving yourself towards it. We can all have numerous dreams and waking up everyday knowing you are doing something to make it happen is living.

I have dreams now, plenty in fact.  I want to travel to places. Try different food. See different views and faces. Move out of the country. Spend more time with family. Have a house with a garden. See the northern lights. Eat crabs in Alaska. Dabble in new hobbies. Learn diving. Learn new languages. So many things that many people have done but so many have not.

I want to live.